Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you're aware of all the controversy that's been swirling around The Biggest Loser season 15 finale and its winner, Rachel Frederickson. But if you're not clued in to all the dirty details, we've got you covered. Here's what's been happening:
After competing on the show and being monitored closely for seven-and-a-half months, Frederickson went home (unmonitored and without trainers) for the final stretch before the finale, working to get down to her lowest weight and hopefully claim the $250,000 prize and title of the Biggest Loser. She shocked viewers; the audience; trainers Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels and Dolvett Quince; and host Alison Sweeney when she strutted a 0-2 sized figure and clocked in at a startling 105 pounds. At the start of the show, Frederickson weighed in at 260 pounds. With a 5'4" frame, let's do the math: this girl shed 155 pounds fast, and she brought her BMI (body mass index) down to 18, which places her in the underweight category - a first in the show's history.
Now, we know by now that BMI is not the end-all, be-all for telling whether or not a person is healthy. There are many other factors at play, like muscle mass. Had she gone too far? Despite the media storm, NBC stands behind their latest champion, and when People magazine asked Frederickson point blank whether or not she had an eating disorder, she told them, "I am very, very healthy."
That being said, when you're training for six hours a day and only eating 1,600 calories per day like this contestant was, the cause for concern seems warranted (however, that does not justify mean, negative comments). After all, it was widely reported that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps chowed down a staggering 12,000 calories a day when training for the Beijing Olympics, and we all heard about how track-star-turned-bobsledder Lolo Jones consumes 9,000 daily calories to beef up for bobsledding. Even Olympic cyclists take in more than 3,300 calories, on average. Granted, Olympians aren't trying to drop weight the way Frederickson was, but it's the closest comparison we get when athletes are logging so many hours of exercise.
But before we all point fingers at the 24-year-old athlete (which she is, no question), let's face the facts: The Biggest Loser is a competitive reality show, and Frederickson did exactly what she signed on to do: win a weight-loss show and bring home a life-changing amount of money. Whether she stays at the same weight or gains 20 pounds before the end of the week doesn't matter - and with the amount of challenges she won throughout the season (4 out of 5 once they moved to singles, including the first-ever Loser sprint triathlon), we bet that played a strategic role. After all, we've heard time and time again how she's always been an athlete and Loser helped her find that in herself again. She knew that as long as she trained hard and got down low enough, she was bringing home the goods. Also, let's not forget that her 105-pound weight isn't set in stone - the show's winners generally gain back a good amount of weight post-finale to settle into their natural healthy weight.
Click through to find out what Extreme Weight Loss trainer Chris Powell has to say!
In the end, we checked in with another celebrity trainer who's quite familiar with weight-loss shows. In fact, he hosts one: Extreme Weight Loss trainer Chris Powell stopped by FITNESS' office shortly after the Loser finale, and even though he didn't train Frederickson himself, there are a few thoughts he's willing to share. Most importantly, the science behind it all:
"We're talking about 3 percent of your body weight a week is what she was losing," says Powell. "And just as far as my experience and my education has taught me, and with all the doctors that we work with, they say any time you begin to encroach upon 2 percent a week, you simply can't lose fat that fast. And when you start to get upwards of 2 percent, that's when the body starts to cannibalize protein, which is your muscle, and that's also when we're going to start to talk about damage to the endocrine system and electrolyte imbalances and all kinds of different things."
Powell has even dealt with eating disorders on his show, and aggressively addressed it on-air with their season 3 contestant, Alyssa Stommen. Unfortunately, it's not an uncommon occurrence for those going on such a big weight-loss journey, the trainer confesses. "It just looked as if she [Frederickson] had just found another extreme, which is also - just for the record - very common," he says. "Overeating is an eating disorder, and so is under eating. And it's very easy to slip from one end of the spectrum to the other...it looks like she found another extreme, and the numbers would suggest the same thing. But, I don't know. If she found some kind of magic way to get fit in a really healthy way, fantastic; more power to her."
Since it's the first time this has ever happened on The Biggest Loser (and after 15 seasons, that's impressive), we can't help but wonder what - if anything - will change with the format of the show. We reached out to NBC to find out, but for now, they're staying tight-lipped and have no comment. For now, we'll cross our fingers that Frederickson really is as healthy - mentally, physically and emotionally - as she claims to be, and agree with Powell's sentiments: "I don't know because I wasn't there...but I certainly hope for her sake that she is fit, and that she can find some kind of balance where she is now."